EIHL play-offs: all the play-off permutations as league reaches thrilling conclusion

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Fife Ice Arena will be packed to capacity tonight for the most incredible finale ton an ice hockey season.

Fife Flyers take on Dundee Stars with their place in the play-offs secured - but the outcome will determine where they finish, and who they face in the quarter-finals. Tom Coolen’s team, grabbed sixth spot on the back of a stunning 6-2 road win over Stars last night, to lead their Tayside rivals by two points, but with four teams all scrapping for the last remaining two spots, there are many permutations at play.

Stars, Glasgow Clan, Coventry Blaze and Nottingham Panthers will see their play-off hopes go to the wire in the final four league games of the 2023-24 season.

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Marc Lefbevre, head coach at Stars, summed it up: “One game -that’s all it is. All we need is to win one hockey game.”But the stakes could not he any higher, and the biggest crowd the sport has witnessed in Kirkcaldy for many seasons will ensure a red hot atmosphere .

Final preparations are all but done for tonight's big game (Pic: Derek Young)Final preparations are all but done for tonight's big game (Pic: Derek Young)
Final preparations are all but done for tonight's big game (Pic: Derek Young)

A win, of any kind, absolutely puts Stars into the playoffs - they cannot lose a tie-break with Glasgow, and matching Clan's result, so long as Nottingham Panthers get fewer points than them, will also see them qualify.

But Flyers want to finish on a high and get the best possible tie in the play-offs. Whoever finishes eighth gets champions Sheffield Steelers, seventh will play Cardiff Devils, and sixth will go heads to head with Belfast Giants. Until the dust settles tonight, any outcome is possible.

Here’s how the land lies:

Flyers win and they finish sixth. Nice and simple.

A win, of any kind, puts Coventry Blaze into the playoffs, but – and this is where the ifs and buts start to kick in – a point would then depend on results elsewhere. Blaze's low regulation wins record could see them lose a tie-break if Glasgow Clan were to win in regulation. Danny Stewart’s team would also beat Glasgow in a tie-break if they get a point and the Clan can only win in OT/SO (total wins tiebreak)

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Spare a thought for Glasgow Clan fans who will be anxiously looking at results elsewhere across the night after a loss in Guildford inflicted major damage on their play-off hopes. Their team must better the result of either Coventry or Dundee to qualify.

Clan cannot win a tie-break with Dundee. Were they to be tied with Coventry, they would need to win Sunday's game in regulation to beat the Blaze on a tie-break (regulation wins), otherwise they would lose it on total wins.

Nottingham Panthers must win in regulation, and hope that at least one of Coventry or Dundee lose, plus that Glasgow get no more than one point. Were the Panthers to finish level on 49 points with Dundee - i.e. Stars lose, Panthers lose in OT/SO), Dundee would win the tie-break on total wins

Were the Panthers and Stars to finish level on 50 points - i.e. Panthers win, Dundee lose OT/SO), a Panthers regulation win would see them win the tie-break on regulation wins. A Panthers OT/SO win would, however, see the teams tied on five straight tie-break points. It would come down to Point 6 - 'Away Games', whereby Dundee already have one point more and cannot be caught. The Panthers cannot lose a tie-break with Glasgow

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Last word to Lefbevre: “ It’s our last chance. We just have to win one one hockey game.”

That’s the goal of all the teams going into the final night shift. Fine margins all round as the 2023-24 season reaches the remarkable conclusion.

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